Thursday, May 28, 2009

Organizing Design Principle

The term 'Organizing Design Principle' may contain some redundancy in it's definition. If the term does have a larger meaning than simply a principle of design, it might be similar to Mission Statement. In planning language -- a Goal.

A reasonable opinion of a good 'Organizing Design Principle' to use for the process of creating within the built environment might be: Implement a pleasing functional design with efficient use of available standardized durable materials that enclose and define the best amount of usable space compatible with the surrounding physical environment, provided for in the local planning jurisdiction, and a having solid value within the local real estate market. (Optional homework assignment: Write your own 'Organizing Design Principle').

There have been, and there are, other influential opinions of a good ‘Organizing Design Principle’ to use for the process of creating within the built environment -- some by Architects.

Ms. Ada Louise Huxtable, the WSJ architecture critic, recently has written a newspaper article specifically about the design of public buildings in NYC. She does not mention the term 'Organizing Design Principle', but her observations about current and recent past architecture is interesting.
(Excerpt) "Now that the age of irrational exuberance and outrageous excess is apparently over, can we please talk about real architecture again? It has been fun seeing just how far talent can stretch itself before achieving irrelevancy, but there are diminishing returns in watching more become less in an escalating game of real-estate toys for the superrich. It has been less fun to see how easily, and paradoxically, in a time of extreme affluence, the social contract that is an essential part of the art of architecture has been abrogated. Or at least driven under the radar by the kind of showy construction where creativity and cost are terminally confused. You do begin to wonder what happened to the art that could build with genuine grandeur and still serve and elevate ordinary lives.

As the hype and the construction stop, there is much soul-searching talk by born-again architects about modesty, sustainability and social and environmental responsibility. But I find it hard to believe that those operating in the stratosphere of pricey self-indulgence in an undimmed celebrity culture really get it, or that they are having even a tiny epiphany. Architecture has always been the enabler of excess, for better or worse, and architects will succumb again to the same seductive pieties about cutting-edge design and a trickle-down theory that simply doesn't work.

Obviously, not all architects have been building condos and skyscrapers; some have been working quietly under the celebrity radar in ways and in places where it matters. It will be a surprise to many that this has been happening in New York (yes, New York, the erstwhile capital of architectural bling), and even more of a surprise that outstanding work is being sponsored by city departments better known for tight budgets, Byzantine bureaucracies and low-bid contracts guaranteeing bad design and shoddy construction, a process that allows elected officials to make egregiously false and enduringly ignorant claims of prudent use of taxpayers' money. The idea that a superior product can be brought in on time and on budget is a really hard sell to a public that sincerely believes no building ever comes in on budget and on time, and that the architect is always to blame. Nor does anyone get elected suggesting that the city's poor and underprivileged neighborhoods have a right to expect anything better than the dismal, degrading stuff they routinely get. Such apostasy lacks political mileage ..."
Read more: The Wall Street Journal, 5.13.09, D7

Automobile Transportation Infrastructure
Consider: The design of automobile transportation infrastructure in the Mission Valley area near San Diego, Cali -- specifically the freeways, overpasses, access ramps, and frontage roads.

Now, let’s not spend anymore time on that.

If you have driven around from place to place in Mission Valley on that cobbled together collection of freeway system parts during the last 15 years, you might imagine that persons responsible for an automobile transportation infrastructure 'Organizing Design Principle' in that area surely were so busy that they may have many times uttered this comment amongst themselves -- ‘Now, let’s not spend anymore time on that’